Bordetella, or more commonly known as ‘kennel cough’, is a highly contagious respiratory disease in dogs. Its nickname comes from the likelihood of breakouts in kennels or other high populated dog areas – if you’ve noticed your dog emitting a sort of ‘honking’ type cough and they’ve recently been at a dog park, grooming facility or doggie daycare, it’s possible they’ve contracted this curable but stressful condition.
Bordetella is contracted when a dog inhales bacteria or virus particles. Their respiratory tract is coated with mucous that traps the particles, which results in the voice box and windpipe becoming inflamed. When suffering from this disease, their activity and appetite may not be affected, but they could have the following symptoms: ‘honking’ cough, fever, gagging and coughing up phlegm (especially after exercise), and/or nasal discharge. Severe cases may result in pneumonia, lack of appetite, lethargy and, in extreme cases, possibly death.
The good news is that it is a curable disease! It’s a very common condition that dogs experience, a high percentage of dogs becoming infected at least once during their lifetime. Puppies tend to have more severe complications due to their underdeveloped immune systems, but older dogs and pregnant females also have decreased immune capabilities, which make them more susceptible to infection. Treatment depends upon your dog’s severity of symptoms—less serious cases are often recommended to just let the disease run its course. While suffering from bordetella, it is best to remove any items from around his or her neck such as collars, scarves and bandanas – body harnesses should be used on walks to prevent stimulation of the coughing reflex. For more severe conditions, anti-inflammatory or cough suppressant medication may be prescribed to help reduce coughing episodes and keep the dog more comfortable. If your dog isn’t eating, has a fever and is having severe respiratory problems, they may have progressed into pneumonia and the veterinarian will likely prescribe antibiotics.
Prevention can also play a part in reducing your dog’s symptoms. There is an annual immunization for bordetella that may be recommended to you by your vet if your pet frequents highly populated dog areas like parks and doggie daycare. The vaccine comes in three types – injection, nasal mist, and oral. This vaccine, regardless of administration, does take 3 days to be effective, and the nasal mist and oral vaccine do provide protection sooner than the injection does. Although these immunizations will reduce the likelihood of illness, they do not guarantee complete immunity and do not treat active infections.
Written by Tracey Westhaver